Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD, the recipient of the 2021 ECOG-ACRIN Young Investigator Award, exemplifies the complete academic physician. A physician-scientist with a special interest in thoracic malignancies, Dr. Lovly's clinical practice focuses on caring for patients with lung cancer. At the same time, her laboratory research aims to understand and develop improved therapeutic strategies for specific molecular subsets of lung cancer. An outstanding researcher, clinician, collaborator, and mentor, she generously shares her time and expertise with patient-oriented foundations.
Group Co-Chairs Peter O'Dwyer, MD, and Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, announced the award on April 29th during the General Session of the Virtual Spring 2021 Group Meeting. The Young Investigator Award recognizes extraordinary scientific achievements and research leadership contributions made by investigators during the early years of their careers (under age 46). A committee composed of previous recipients and ECOG-ACRIN scientific leaders selects one awardee annually. The award was established in 1992 and is funded by the ECOG Research and Education Foundation.
As part of the honor, Dr. Lovly, a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine, the Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, and co-leader of the Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Program at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, will present her research at a future Group Meeting.
At Vanderbilt, Dr. Lovly is best known for her work on ALK translocated (ALK+) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), including treatment strategies and resistance mechanisms. Her laboratory at Vanderbilt has also investigated other driver mutations of lung cancer such as EGFR and KRAS.
Vanderbilt University has been a Standing Main Member of ECOG-ACRIN since 1986. The partnership between the two organizations provides the professional scaffolding for Dr. Lovly, a rising star in ECOG-ACRIN and the broader NCI National Clinical Trials Network. She has been an active participant in the ECOG-ACRIN Thoracic Cancer Committee since 2013, where her opinion is highly regarded and sought after by committee members for her research expertise, voice of reason, and insightful comments during scientific dialogue. In 2014, she was invited to serve as the translational study chair for the NCI-MATCH precision medicine cancer trial's Arm E, investigating osimertinib in patients that test positive for EGFR T790M or rare activating mutations of EGFR, regardless of the type of cancer. In 2017, Dr. Lovly became the co-leader of the Lung Biology Subcommittee of the ECOG-ACRIN Thoracic Cancer Committee, where she assists with several ongoing projects.
In 2018, Dr. Lovly became the ECOG-ACRIN chair of NRG Oncology's phase II trial, Targeted Treatment for ALK Positive Patients Who Have Previously Been Treated for Non-squamous Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NCT03737994), sponsored by the NCI. In 2019, she was appointed to the oversight committee for LUNG-MAP, a unique SWOG-led collaborative trial for patients with NSCLC, sponsored by the NCI (NCT02154490).
Also in 2019, Dr. Lovly was awarded (as subcontract PI) the ECOG-ACRIN Thoracic Malignancies Integrated Translational Science Center grant. Within this framework are several exciting projects: Project 1 - Genetic determinant of clinical outcome in small-cell lung cancer; Project 2 - Defining the role of an EGFR/HER2 negative regulator MIG-6 in acquired resistance to ALK inhibition; and Project 3 - quantifying 3q amplification in circulating tumor DNA.
The breadth and depth of Dr. Lovly's laboratory investigations are reflected in the publication of over 90 original manuscripts—several high-impact for their clinical relevance—and her reputation for being at the forefront of developing precision approaches for patients with lung cancer. In 2017, she was selected as a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI). Dr. Lovly is a sought-after speaker holding several roles in national and international organizations. She serves on the scientific advisory boards for LUNGevity Foundation, Lung Cancer Research Foundation, and GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, where she chairs the Scientific Leadership Board.
Dr. Lovly's other awards include the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Award, the V Foundation V Scholar Award, and the LUNGevity Foundation Career Development Award. Understanding the critical role of mentorship, she serves as a research mentor for multiple residents and fellows in oncology. The presentations and publications from those collaborative efforts have been critical in launching the early careers of several of these investigators.
ECOG-ACRIN salutes Dr. Christine Lovly for being a compassionate physician, a tireless patient advocate, and an internationally respected thoracic cancer researcher and collaborator.
Watch the video below, in which Dr. Lovly's peers discuss her attributes.
Suresh S. Ramalingam, MD (Emory University) and Heather A. Wakelee, MD (Stanford University) contributed to this story.